Labor Day 2016 will go down in history as a day I forgot to be a newsman.
During a manhunt in my Royse City neighborhood that morning, I was a concerned citizen. At the moment, that’s exactly what I was supposed to be.
Later, however, I had some regrets.
While I was protecting my property and helping officers be on the lookout for the suspect, I missed out on several news photos. I could have taken pictures of officers checking out the vacant house next door. And I could have taken pictures of officers walking down the train tracks while conducting their search.
I didn’t even think about news photos until the last Texas Department of Public Safety squad car was driven away.
Why didn’t I take pictures of what happened in my neighborhood? I became deeply involved in what was going on. I saw the suspect enter my neighborhood. I saw a DPS trooper who was not far behind the suspect. The trooper had his service revolver in his hand. I even gave the officer directions – “He went thataway;” “Here he is;” “No, he turned around. He’s going the other way.”
Let’s go to the beginning.
Gracie, our beloved Chiweenie, was taking me on our regular morning walk. We followed our normal route. We came out of the Fox Field gate, turned left onto Jones Street and headed toward Cockrell Alley.
I saw a shirtless man coming out of the driveway of a residence. He wasn’t running, but he was walking briskly, and he kept looking back over his shoulder. Suspicious indeed. Not a normal sight at about 7:45 a.m., especially on a holiday morning. And the driveway he came from was the end of the road. Nobody should be coming out of that driveway.
As I was reaching for my phone to call 911, a DPS trooper emerged from bushes along a fence line near the house – on the other side of the house from the driveway.
I realized I was in the middle of something.
He asked if I had seen a man. Yes, I told him, he just ran up Cockrell Alley.
I’m not sure whether I took a step. The next thing I saw was the suspect again, running toward me. He had left Cockrell Alley, ran behind a house, then turned and headed back toward Jones Street – and me. And Gracie.
That’s when I hollered at the officer, that he was over here. The suspect saw me, heard me, turned around and headed in the opposite direction. I gave the officer the latest information and off he went.
I then realized all the action was moving toward my home. And in that home was my sleeping wife. And the front door of that home was unlocked. I stepped up my pace. Everything was fine at home, so I took a position in my front yard and watched the officers cover the neighborhood.
About an hour later, the officers ended their search. They had received word that the suspect had made it all the way across town to Birch Street. That’s where a witness reported seeing a man fitting the suspect’s description get into a pickup truck. And his getaway was successful.
As it turned out, the man fled after a traffic stop on Interstate 30 near Farm to Market 35. He made his way through a brushy area on the north side of the interstate to reach the driveway off Cockrell Alley.
There were initial reports that the man was carrying a backpack, and the contents of the backpack could have been the reason he ran. The next day, a DPS spokesman told me the man was driving a stolen car.
What I learned from my morning excitement was something that I already knew. I love the news business. I love to cover spot news stories. Manhunts, for example.
But when one of those spot news stories hits close to home – too close to home – it’s OK to be a civilian, a concerned citizen. Forget about the camera, assist when needed, protect my castle, protect my wife. And Gracie.
Jim Hardin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.